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Aperture 1.5, due out "this week," is all about workflow  
Monday, September 25, 2006 | by Rob Galbraith

  Coming Soon: Apple Aperture 1.5 for Mac.

Apple Aperture 1.5 for Mac, due out as a free update in the next few days, is all about workflow. Based on glimpses of the new release today at a packed Apple presentation in Cologne, Germany, v1.5 appears to be a significant update to the pro photo management application that made its debut in the fall of 2005.

The program can now work with pictures wherever they reside, not just on a single drive as before, the adding of metadata on import has been streamlined, RAW photos can be exported with XMP-format sidecar files, Aperture Library contents are accessible from applications in Apple's iWork and iLife suites and a developer's SDK enables third parties to create custom export modules.

There are important changes to the image viewing and processing controls too, but the most compelling aspects of the new release involving importing, tracking, exporting and sharing pictures. Here's a look at some of what's new.

The Library is open The biggest barrier to adoption of Aperture by Mac-based photographers with existing collections of pictures has been the restrictive Aperture Library. Not anymore: it's open season in Aperture 1.5. Now, the program can track and work with photos wherever they reside: on one or several hard drives, DVDs, a network volume or other location that can be read from and written to (we're not sure if this includes FAT/NTFS drives).

When the media containing a given picture or collection of pictures is offline, it's still possible to add and edit metadata, see thumbnails and previews, layout a book, play a slideshow and do pretty much anything else that doesn't involve the direct editing or conversion of the offline originals. In support of this newfound flexibility, the program can optionally create a preview version of any picture that Aperture is tracking, at any size right up the full resolution of the source file, with control over the quality of the preview as well. This is in addition to the roughly 1000-pixel wide "thumbnail" the program already creates. The new, any-resolution preview is built in the background, during times when the program is idle.

Aperture's newfound flexibility was much-needed, and will put it in direct competition with traditional image cataloging programs like Extensis Portfolio and iView MediaPro as well as Adobe's upcoming Photoshop Lightroom.

I want my XMP In Aperture 1.5, Apple has gone halfway to implementing full support for XMP sidecar files. When a RAW file is exported in the new version, an XMP-format text file can optionally accompany it, complete with IPTC metadata as well as Aperture's 5-star ranking (stored as an XMP ranking that can be read by Adobe Bridge, iView MediaPro and other XMP-savvy applications).

Aperture 1.5's XMP support is limited to export; as before, it will not read from XMP sidecar files on import. This will present a problem for photographers whose picture collections contain vital image-describing metadata in XMP sidecars now, such as those created in Adobe applications, or by Camera Bits Photo Mechanic when it's optionally set to do so. Aperture Product Manager Joe Schorr acknowledged the importance of XMP on import, and all but promised it in a future release. For now, he says, it was judged that XMP on export was both more important in the typical Aperture user's workflow and achievable within the tight window they'd given themselves to have Aperture 1.5 ready to roll at Photokina.

Also on the metadata front, captioning has been sped up, with auto-filling presets of IPTC information that can be applied both on import and to batches of already-imported pictures.

iPhoto-like integration with iWork and iLife applications Pictures in Aperture, including those residing in Smart Albums, are available through the Media Browser of other Apple applications, including Keynote, Pages, iMovie, iDVD and iWeb. The integration is done in a manner that essentially mirrors that of iPhoto. Even syncing to an iPod via iTunes is possible.

Third party export plug-ins In v1.5 of Aperture, developers can create plug-ins that simplify the process of transferring photos to their software or service. At launch, there will be plug-ins available for Digital Fusion, iStockphoto, Flickr, Getty Images, PhotoShelter and SoundSlides. A software development kit will enable other developers to create additional plug-ins as well.

There are many other changes and feature additions worth highlighting, including new image adjustment presets, a much-improved and super-flexible loupe, new luminance-only sharpening and colour tuning tools, the ability to run on any Intel-based Mac from the Mac Mini on up (as well as older, previously-supported PowerPC Macs) and a number of other program refinements. Not changed is the core (and good quality) RAW conversion engine in Aperture 1.5. The new version, says Apple's Schorr, will produce identical conversions to v1.1 when the same settings are applied.

Based on the demonstration we saw today, Apple has taken Aperture a big step forward. Also based on the demonstration we saw today, it's clear that their work isn't done - from XMP import to selective image correction tools (except for the new Color tool, the program lacks the ability to dodge, burn or otherwise target local areas of a photo for colour and tone adjustment) to a small workgroup version of the application, there's lots of room for growth in Aperture 2.0, 3.0 and beyond. Our initial impression of Aperture 1.5, however, is that Apple is serious about this product and serious about making it better.

Aperture 1.5 for Mac is slated to come available this week (Apple representatives wouldn't commit to a specific day) via the Software Update mechanism of Mac OS X. As before, it's US$299 in the U.S. to purchase direct from Apple.

Aperture 1.5 in pictures

Below are photos and screen grabs from Apple's unveiling of Aperture 1.5 today at a conference centre in central Cologne.

Aperture 1.5: Apple's Rob Schoeben, Vice President of Applications Product Marketing, fronts a Keynote presentation about the new version. (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

Aperture 1.5: Aperture Product Manager Joe Schorr highlights new features. (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

Aperture 1.5: Discussing the newfound flexibility of the Aperture Library. (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

Aperture 1.5: Previews can be created at up to the full resolution of the source file, then stored within the Aperture environment, for viewing even when the originals are offline.

Aperture 1.5: Photographer Vincent Laforet's photo collection is made up of 1.25TB of originals, which can be represented with a 65GB Aperture Library full of thumbnails, previews and metadata.

Aperture 1.5: When an original is offline, this dialog reveals its location.

Aperture 1.5: iLife and iWork integration examples.

Aperture 1.5: The Media Browser in Keynote, showing its linkage to Aperture.

Aperture 1.5: Selecting photos from Aperture from within iDVD.

Aperture 1.5: Syncing an Aperture Library with an iPod through iTunes.

Aperture 1.5: The export plug-ins that will be available when the new version of Aperture is released.

Aperture 1.5: The iStockphoto export plug-in.

Aperture 1.5: Highlighting the beefed-up captioning functionality.

Aperture 1.5: Export of XMP sidecar files alongside a RAW file is possible.

Aperture 1.5: The loupe can perform many new tricks.

Aperture 1.5: The loupe in action.

Aperture 1.5: A new sharpening tool makes its debut in this week's Aperture update.

Aperture 1.5: Joining the new sharpening tool is a new colour adjustment tool. It's called Color.

Aperture 1.5: The new Color tool in action.

Aperture 1.5: The new Color tool in action.

Aperture 1.5: Favourite combinations of image processing settings can be stored as presets.

Aperture 1.5: Apple's Schoeben wraps up the presentation. (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

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